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Young pawpaw tree (planted last spring as a stripling, so first spring post planting) has damage to bark and trunk.

What could have caused this? Is there anything I can do to help it?

Tree is in a sheltered location in zone 5a/b, from a nursery that provides specifically for this zone. A second tree is thriving. The tree was covered for the winter (possibly a mistake?) Seemed healthy last summer; still too early to know how it is doing this year (possibly just a hint of greening of a leaf bud.)

young pawpaw bark damage

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    Does the damaged area "give" a little when you press on it, so that the area doesn't feel as hard as the rest of the small trunk?
    – Jurp
    Apr 17 at 12:40
  • Hard to tell because it’s so small, but I think it does feel a bit softer in the central area where you can see the exposed inner structure in the photo.
    – Mark
    Apr 17 at 15:22
  • The bark almost looks like it was scraped off. Bucks do that in the fall when they're scraping the velvet off of their new-grown antlers; they most commonly damage the bark on the trunk rather than smaller twigs. Can you add a photo of the damage to the trunk? Not too close-up please, as it'll be helpful to see how far the damage is from the ground.
    – csk
    May 18 at 16:24
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It's difficult to be certain because this is such a young tree, but the problem could be a canker. Cankers are usually found on the trunk of a tree and are caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. They often, but not always, kill a tree. It is possible for one cankerous tree to infect another of the same species, so if I'm right, then your other pawpaw may be in danger of becoming infected, especially if it has any kind of wound on the trunk. Treatment for a canker is usually removing the tree. Here and here is some additional information.

If your trees are relatively far apart and/or if your other tree has an unwounded bark, then you would probably be okay in waiting this summer to see if the wound on this tree gets worse. If it becomes very spongy, then I would remove the tree; otherwise, the canker may resolve itself over time. If you see any outward signs of fungus on the tree itself, remove it immediately.

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